The singing will never be done

After 6 months of silence, City of Bristol Choir resumed rehearsals at St Matthew’s Church on 17 September. Rehearsing in two separate groups with everyone spaced out 2m apart, it was a joy to come back together and start singing again. We began with Tallis’ If ye love me and the Brian Knowles’ setting of Siegfried Sassoon’s poem Everyone sang. The poignant and appropriate text was quoted in an article about the choir’s activities in the November issue of the Bristol Magazine.

“This might be the last cultural event for a while,” conductor David Ogden told the audience just before City of Bristol Choir’s poignant performance of Duruflé’s Requiem on 14 March in All Saints’ Church, Clifton. Little did he know how true and understated these words would be, but, after almost exactly six months’ silence, thanks to thorough planning and the writing of copious risk assessments and emails, the choir started rehearsing regularly again at St Matthew’s Church. What piece to start with? It could only be a setting of Siegfried Sassoon’s poem Everyone Sang: Everyone suddenly burst out singing / And I was filled with such delight / As prisoned birds must find in freedom…

“We had been caged birds, released to find what we had been missing for so long,” says David, “experiencing not only the sound of our voices but a renewal of the camaraderie and friendly atmosphere of rehearsals. Of course, things were not as they were before – we were socially distanced with masks, but isn’t it amazing how expressive one’s eyebrows can be? We send recordings of the rehearsals to those who are unable to attend. We all listened to them, amazed, despite the restrictions, at the quality of sound, the energy and emotion that we managed to pour into the music.” O, but everyone was a bird / And the song was wordless / The singing will never be done.